Campaigning and lobbying

Join our campaign for greener inspection criteria

Every four years, the British Council refreshes their inspection criteria for English language teaching centres in the UK. This year, for the first time, they are inviting input from all accredited members. Let’s push for the first ever inclusion of environmental action and responsibility in the Accreditation UK scheme.

We are suggesting two new management criteria:

• Accredited language centres have an environmental policy;
• Any marketing claims made to environmental commitments should be accurate and supported by evidence.

If you agree and you are participating in the survey, use our suggested text below in your submission.

The first requirement will help embed environmental responsibility across our sector, while acknowledging that different centres are at different stages in their response. Putting an environmental policy in place will give all types of language centre the chance to consider what steps they can reasonably take to reduce their negative impact.

The second offers important protection against greenwashing – falsely marketing a language school as ‘greener’ than it is. As customers are increasingly prioritising sustainable businesses, we must ensure our sector communicates honestly about environmental action in marketing and publicity.

These new criteria will help give our sector’s environmental impact the status it needs.

Together they not only acknowledge the environmental crisis but also set the foundation for action, helping to prepare our sector for change, potential new regulation as the government moves to meet climate change commitments, as well as protecting students against false advertising.

If your school is recognised by Accredited UK, we encourage you to include a call for these two new environmental criteria when you complete the survey. We have included suggested text and sections for submission below.

This is the perfect opportunity to push for real change in our sector. So please share this call to action across your networks! #GreenELT

Suggested text

Strategic and quality management M1-M7 section:

Our organisation believes that the scheme should require accredited language centres to have an environmental policy in order to embed environmental responsibility across our sector.

Publicity M22-M29 section:

Our organisation believes that the scheme should require that any marketing claims made by accredited language centres with regards to environment commitments are accurate and supported by evidence to prevent greenwashing.

Inspiration Opinion

Three reactions to the climate crisis

Scientists say the climate is reacting more quickly and more violently than expected. And that’s just the one degree of global warning that is currently baked into the system. We are on track for 2.5C and maybe more.

But why should we care?

I’m not suggesting you don’t care. Presumably at an individual level we all feel concern for the younger people in our lives who will have to face whatever the future holds.

But why should we care as providers of often short-term English language courses? Courses that, because most pupils travel by plane to us here in the UK, have very high emissions.

In recent years, we’ve not only experienced a pandemic, but massive wildfires in Australia and the USA. Droughts and heatwaves have been affecting every part of the planet. Floods in West Africa and Pakistan have displaced millions of people. Heat records were broken all over the UK in summer 2022. We saw catastrophic flooding in Germany and unbearable temperatures in Athens, Madrid and Rome.

If the crisis felt remote before, there’s no way we can pretend it’s not our problem now. And, as we all know, our emissions are helping to create and intensify the problem.

So what should language centres do? It seems there are three possible reactions to the situation:

  • One: shut up our schools, the flight emissions are just too high.
  • Two: carry on as before, it’s a losing battle and we can’t make a difference anyway.
  • Three: transform our schools in response to a changing world and as part of shaping a better future.

Three reactions

Close up shop

So what now? Things are bad and set to get worse. But what should a junior summer school like mine do about it?

I find myself in a contradictory position. On one hand I am helping encourage organisations to reduce their emissions through Green Action ELT. At the same time, I’m trying to drum up business for our summer school, knowing most pupils will fly.

It’s not a comfortable position. Should I pack up my bags and find something else to do?

While this reaction may absolve us of personal responsibility, children will still come to the UK to learn English. And, if they don’t visit my school, they’ll go somewhere else. Perhaps to a school that doesn’t discuss environmental topics in the classroom or try to reduce waste and energy use in the way that we do.

Carry on as before

Or perhaps I shouldn’t worry so much, and just get on with things.

Carry on ‘business as usual’ because we’re just one school and can’t do much about global problems anyway. Maybe it’s easier not to acknowledge the problem, or at least our part in it. Besides, we don’t want to risk putting pupils off; we don’t want to kill the goose laying the golden egg.

The problem with that position is that it isn’t very moral. And it’s short-sighted.

Are we happy taking money from parents with the promise that we are preparing their children for the future, while in the process helping putting at risk the very future that we say we are preparing them for?

While we may be losing the battle to keep global warming to 1.5C, every fraction of a degree above that will be counted in greater human misery and lives lost. Which means everything we do to cut emissions will help reduce suffering. We are morally obliged to do what we can.

Prioritising profit now over a liveable planet later, may not be good business in any case. Why are so many brands and products shouting out their commitments to carbon neutrality and a clean, green planet? They know shoppers and staff care. Whether they’re pushed to act or lie about action, they are responding to changing pressures and priorities. People, especially young people, care about sustainability.

And we can apply the same logic to our courses.

Time for transformation

So, scrapping closing the school and carrying on regardless, our third option is: do something. Respond to the situation and try to reduce our emissions as far as we possibly can.

It the right thing to do. We are facing a crisis that is already taking lives, and we must act.

Action gives us agency in a rapidly changing and often scary situation. It gives us a chance to reshape our lives, schools and communities to address other problems, like inequality, that are so entangled with the climate crisis.

It is also means responding to a topic that is increasingly important to our pupils and their families.

So where do we start?

Responses in the sector span a continuum. At one end we see superficial changes – recycling and quitting plastic cups, say. Really just tinkering around the edges and risking the charge of greenwashing if the impact of these actions is overemphasised. At the other end, organisations are examining every part of their operation to find ways to reduce emissions and use their position for positive change.

As the Green ELT movement grows, we must be careful to fall on the impactful end of the spectrum. To start with, if you have not already done so, write an environmental policy. Get together as a team and find colleagues who can lead and maintain the momentum of your environmental efforts.

Do everything you can, from food to fuel, classroom to conference.

Take action.

Adapted from a talk at the Young Learners English UK AGM 2022
Campaigning and lobbying Politics

Climate and Ecological Emergency Bill

Here’s a really simple and clear explanation about the Climate and Ecological Emergency Bill. It’s a great chance to build consensus both inside and outside parliament on a road map to an environmentally sustainable future. In a year when the UK Government seeks to persuade the rest of the world that it is serious about the Climate and Ecological Emergency, the least you can expect from your MP is that they support the bill. Here’s a letter I wrote to mine:

Dear Laurence Robertson,

As one of your constituents I am writing to ask you to support the Climate and Ecological Emergency Bill – see

Scientists are increasingly sounding the alarm as to the inadequacy of governmental response to this real and urgent problem. I am deeply concerned for the future of our planet and the wellbeing of my children and grandchildren.

In a year when the UK Government seeks to show the rest of the world at COP 26 that it is serious about the climate and ecological emergency, the least I can expect from you as my MP is that you support this bill.

By so doing you will help to propel action and signal to the increasing number of environmentally concerned people in this constituency that you care about their future.

Yours sincerely
Christopher Etchells

Writing to your MP is easy: just enter your postcode at then follow the simple instructions. MPs really do listen to this kind of thing, so please take a few minutes out of your day to let your MP know how you feel on this vital issue.

Big picture

The time is now: why UK ELT needs a green transformation

The idea of prioritising climate action may feel like one task too many right now. But the climate crisis isn’t a remote event but a reality we are already seeing in extreme storms, fires, floods, displacement and loss around the world. The time is now. And English language teaching must act and help address climate change.

What’s more, the current upheaval gives us an opportunity to shape what comes next. We don’t want to ‘go back to normal’ if it led us into environmental destruction, a pandemic and climate crisis.

Instead we can seize this moment of change to build new ways of working and living that are sustainable, fairer and safer for everyone.

2020 – a historic moment and an opportunity

Covid-19 has badly hurt UK ELT, taken far too many lives and many fear for their jobs and homes. But it has also shown us we that we can dramatically change how we work, relax and travel to save lives and protect our communities. It may have even given us a glimpse of the way forward.

We have seen the inequalities and suffering we want to avoid; realised the essential services, from shop workers to bus drivers to nurses, that we must strengthen and support; we have glimpsed roads turned in to safe spaces for exercise and play; been delighted by the wildlife wandering back into our quieter world (the Llandudno goats were a favourite!); and covid has reminded us of our vulnerability to natural disasters.

Those who have been lucky enough to be able to enjoy time off through furlough or mothballed businesses, had the opportunity to reflect on life’s direction and priorities. To imagine a better future with more free time, less travel, more flexible working and slower living.

Now we have a better idea of what we have to lose and to gain. And we have seen the change we are capable of. So let’s take action to create a better world and help our industry come out of the Covid-19 crisis on the right side of history. The time is now.

Plus – many of the actions necessary to limit climate change will also help prevent the emergence and spread of diseases and novel viruses.

The problems we face are interconnected

Hundreds of thousands live in poverty, food bank use has increased by 74% in five years (and that’s before coronavirus), hate crimes have doubled, the NHS is struggling and the country is politically divided. Shouldn’t we address these problems first?

We absolutely must address these issues. And we must tackle them together with climate action.

When we talk about the effects of climate change, we are talking about disasters that hurt and endanger people. We want to protect each other from suffering, save people’s homes and livelihoods. And these goals cannot ignore inequalities and injustice. Especially when climate change disproportionately affects poor people, marginalised people and people of colour.

We need to look for multi-issue solutions and holistic system change to create a better, greener world for everyone.

We face many challenge and the time to address them is now. Take a look at our tips and green guides to help you begin (or continue!) improving your environmental impact. And please share your environmental activities, ideas and challenges with us on Twitter and Linked In – we must speak up and prioritise #GreenELT.